People are living longer than ever before, so planning for the future includes more than just an investment portfolio. Retirees need to find meaningful, productive activities to fill out the last part of their lives, not just busywork. This is especially true here in Summit County CO where we have one of the longest life expectancy in the country.
Active retirement begins with a concept a Denver Regional Council Of Governments study refers to as “healthy aging,” which has several key components: Good physical health; possession of basic resources (housing, food); good social network; sense of purpose; and engaging in activities such as volunteering, working, and hobbies or interests. Summit County is the epitome of active retirement. With our recreation centers, senior hiking clubs, skiing, biking, etc. it's no wonder you see people skiing into their 80's.
These components may seem obvious, but seniors need to assess the balance in their lives with the above in mind to uncover not just challenges, but opportunities as well.
Being aware of the challenges ahead is a good point from which to start. Amazingly, many people never give any thought to how they’ll spend their days once they stop going to the office. The irony is that retirement often brings about identity crises – because work was how the retiree has defined him or herself for the last 40-odd years. Society defines us by our achievements, and what you do often becomes who you are. Retirement, therefore, may require a redefinition of self. If approached from a positive angle, i.e., the opportunity to reinvent oneself, retirement can be the most rewarding phase of life. No better place to reinvent yourself than right here. You can become the senior athlete, the volunteer of the year, start a new business or craft, so many possibilities I think of this place as Never-Never Land.
Make a list called 100 Things I Want To Do (before I die…). The list helps to uncover past dreams, wishes and activities or interests they haven't pursued in a while. You’d be surprised at how difficult this can be, though, because people tend to think, “Well, I always wanted to skydive (act/learn the cello), but now I’m too old.” This is where thinking outside the box comes in, which often requires prompting.
Some questions to ask yourself: What if age weren’t a factor or you were 20 years old? What if you weren’t afraid of seeming foolish? What if you had the resources and energy to make your dreams come true? The point is to open up possibilities, even ones that seem “too young.” Movies need older extras. Skydiving can be done at any age with good health. Why not get a college degree now? It may take a little longer to learn that musical instrument, but one thing you have now is time. Forget about what is “expected” of older people, and follow your heart’s desire.
Retirement need not be viewed as the end. It should be anticipated as the beginning…of the time of your life.